Henrietta Lacks’ estate says pharma company profited from stolen cells

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(Businesshala) October 4 – The estate of a black woman whose cervical cells were taken from her cervix decades ago without her permission, sued a pharmaceutical company on Monday, saying it had largely But made a “conscious choice” to produce cells and “racially benefit”. unjust medical system.”

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According to the lawsuit filed in the Maryland federal, Henrietta Lax’s estate “didn’t see a dime” of Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO.N) revenue from the cultivation of the HeLa cell line taken from Lax at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951. Court.

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“The exploitation of Henrietta Lacks represents an unfortunately common struggle experienced by black people throughout American history. In fact, black suffering has fueled countless medical advances and benefits, without compensation or recognition,” the suit says. .

Waltham, Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney who has represented the families of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown after their deaths, represents Lacks’ estate.

Henrietta’s grandson, Ron Lacks, is the executor of her estate.

Lacks’ story was featured in both the 2010 best-selling book and the 2017 film titled “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”.

According to the lawsuit, the tissue sample for the HeLa cell line was taken from Lax at Johns Hopkins during her cervical cancer treatment procedure, which left her infertile.

Lax, who was not told that Johns Hopkins had planned to take the samples and had not consented to it, died of cancer later that year.

Since then, the HeLa line, the first to live and reproduce indefinitely in laboratory conditions, has been used to test a polio vaccine, research the effects of radiation on human cells, and develop a treatment for sickle cell anemia. has gone. .

The lawsuit asks the court to award profits from Thermo Fisher’s use of the Hella line to Lax’s assets and to permanently block him from using the line without permission.

“Simply put, because it made a conscious choice to profit from Henrietta Lacks’ attack, Thermo Fisher Scientific’s wrongful profit relates to Ms. Lax’s assets,” the lawsuit says.

Reporting by Blake Brittain; Editing by Noleen Walder and Aurora Ellis

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